Government urged to steer green housing policy ‘away from future misery’

The Government will create 'future misery' for homeowners if it doesn't reverse its decision to scrap the zero-carbon homes requirement and Code for Sustainable Homes, the National Policy for the Built Environment Committee has said.

Accusing some developers of playing ‘fast and loose’ with the Government’s seemingly lack of desire to build quality, sustainable new homes, Committee chair Baroness O’Cathain today (19 February) laid out the Committee’s recommendations to fast-track the UK’s introduction of greener buildings.

“It is increasingly clear that we need to build more houses in England and we wholeheartedly support that objective,” O’Cathain said. “However, if we build those houses in the wrong place, to a poor standard, without the consent of local communities we are only storing up future misery for the people in those houses and others nearby.

“That is why we are recommending local authorities are once again empowered both to build new homes of their own, and to ensure all developments are of a suitably high quality. Spending a little bit extra on good quality design at the outset can avert massive costs to people, society and Government in the long-run.

“The Government should review the National Planning Policy Framework to make sure developers aren’t using financial viability to play fast and loose with design quality and sustainability. If developers submit substandard plans local authorities should be able to ask them to think again without builders falling back on questionable viability assessments to get their way.”

Key recommendations

Recommendations outlined in the Building Better Places report state that the Government should appoint a ‘chief built environment advisor’ to champion higher standards in the built environment. The report also calls on the Government to reverse its decision to scrap the zero-carbon homes requirement; while also introducing a new strategy to retrofit historic, older buildings.

It calls on design reviews for all major planning applications should be made mandatory after it was revealed that emissions in buildings were 3.8 times higher than the design estimates.

The report also suggests that Local Authority planning departments need access to better resources, with more bursaries given to planning students, and a greater emphasis on ‘proactive planning’ from these authorities.

Zero-carbon homes

The Government’s controversial decision to remove the zero-carbon homes requirement was met with skepticism across a variety of sectors. The Solar Trade Association warned Government that the removal of the initiative would lock occupants into higher carbon emissions and higher energy bills for decades to come.

John Alker, campaign & policy director of the UK Green Building Council, today said: “The Government’s U-turn on the zero carbon standards for new homes threw away a decade of planning and investment by progressive developers, designers and manufacturers and made our carbon targets even harder to hit.

“The houses we build today need to stand the test of time, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect quality as well as quantity.”

Outside of Government, steps have been made to re-invigorate the sustainable homes market – a £1.1bn deal was recently struck between UK solar developers WElink Energy and British Solar Renewables (BSR) and the China National Building Materials Group (CNBM) that will see up to 8,000 zero-carbon homes built in the UK.

But, according to a new report – also released today – from global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, nearly a fifth of commercial property buildings in England and Wales could be barred from being let in the future because they do not comply with new Government energy standards.

Green buildings at edie Live 2016

The concept of green buildings is a key theme being explored at edie Live 2016.

Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from the 17-18 May, delegates and experts will meet to discuss the fragile environment surrounding the green build future.

Find out more and register to attend here.

Matt Mace

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